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Side Effects (Blu-ray Review)

8 Jun, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Box Office $32.17 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for sexuality, nudity, violence and language.
Stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw, Ann Dowd.

In an age of Big Pharma, where meds are aggressively marketed on TV and in print as remedies to whatever ails society, it’s inevitable they would also be prescribed to mask lies, greed and corruption.

This abuse lies at the heart of Steven Soderbergh’s reported last theatrical directorial effort, Side Effects, a moody thriller that finds Emily (effective Rooney Mara) in a downward emotional spiral. Her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum sans beefcake persona), has just been paroled from prison following an insider trading conviction — a four-year sentence that saw the loss of their home, cushy lifestyle and required Emily to rejoin the workforce at a Manhattan ad agency.

Emotionless sex, vacant stares and a general detachment from anything real finds Emily staring down the wall of a parking garage with her foot on the gas pedal. The apparent suicide attempt leaves her in the hospital under the care of compassionate psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (expertly played by Jude Law).

Banks prescribes the usual battery of antidepressants with little effect. In talks with Emily’s previous shrink, Dr. Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones), she suggests new (fictitious) wonder drug Ablixa — giving Banks a pen with its logo as a reminder.

This act is an indictment of the pharmaceutical industry’s cozy relationship with health care practitioners — a symbiotic existence Soderbergh illuminates without preaching. As if Martin cares.

“Whoever makes this drug is going to be very rich,” he gasps following a sexually charged romp with Emily.

Not to divulge the storyline (and spoilers), but there’s a flipside to “better living” through chemistry for all concerned. There always is.


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